5Qs for Brad Wright on warehousing's answer to Airbnb

Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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Chunker CEO Brad Wright

Brad Wright likes to say that his web startup Chunker is the largest warehouse company in the world that doesn’t own a square foot of space. Having for years worked with supply chain issues for large international manufacturing firms, the tech and software expert became well aware of how aberrations in the supply chain could, all of a sudden, leave a warehouse space without a renter or a retailer in immediate need of extra space. “The need is pretty constant,” he said, so we asked him for more particulars.

What made you think that an Airbnb equivalent for industrial space was a viable concept?
I’m a tech guy, not a real estate guy, but while working for a company called Master Control I spent 10 years traveling the world and touring huge manufacturing facilities with big warehouses, so the warehouse thing became second nature to me. One thing I learned was that, due to many unavoidable situations, like what we’re seeing now with the supply chain crisis, warehouse owners suddenly have available space and retailers suddenly need extra warehouse space. So I thought, why not create the equivalent of an Airbnb for industrial space?

Reports from CBRE and Marcus & Millichap say that under-construction industrial space is too low to accommodate the needs of retailers over the next few years. Is that so?
A lot of the new industrial space under construction are mega-warehouses that are dedicated to the Amazons of the world, with two or three million square feet and 75-foot-high ceilings. But there is lots of other space available that retailers can rent short-term.

“We know what space is available and where within five minutes and can solve a problem. We have warehouses in 45 states.”

So Chunker doesn’t actually own or operate any warehouse space?
No. We launched our website two-and-a-half years ago to set up companies with warehouses that have the right amount of available space for the right amount of time. The supply chain is in constant churn and manufacturing companies and retailers have constant needs for overflow storage. We haven’t noticed any change in the demand for short-term warehouse space because of seasonality or weather or pandemics. It’s almost always an emergency scenario.

No owners of industrial space engage in short-term leasing deals?
Industrial brokers hate doing short-term leasing. They want to spend their whole day working on the 10-year lease that’s going to bring in $10 million. They don’t have the time or the tools to make it worthwhile. But then along comes Chunker and we solve that problem. We know what space is available and where within five minutes and can solve a problem.We have warehouses in 45 states. Companies that need space can do the entire transaction on Chunker.

Has this been a godsend for warehouse owners as well as for retailers in dire need of immediate industrial space?          
Yes. We doubled the space available on our platform this year and have done four or five times the deals we did last year. One day an empty, 90,000-sq.-ft. warehouse showed up on our site. I called the guy who listed it and asked him how he’d heard about Chunker. He said, “I just lost a big customer that would have been paying $150,000 a month in rent, so I Googled ‘What to do with spare warehouse space?’ and Chunker popped up.” No one would have Googled that five years ago.